UAA’s Center for Human Development is working to better understand brain injuries

by Vicki Nechodomu  |   

A student participates in an activity during the 2019 Alaska Brain Bee hosted by UAA.
A student participates in an activity during the 2019 Alaska Brain Bee hosted by UAA. (Photo courtesy of Katie Behnke)

In Alaska, brain injuries are particularly prevalent compared to the rest of the country. Alaska leads the nation in traumatic brain injury-related deaths, with falls being the leading cause of brain injury (41%), followed by motor vehicle incidents (24%) and assaults (11%). March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and UAA’s Center for Human Development is engaging in significant work to better understand traumatic and acquired brain injuries in Alaska.

“A brain injury can happen to anyone at any point in their life,”  said Danielle Reed, director of Community Services at the UAA Center for Human Development. “Following an injury, many people are sent home with few resources and have limited access to appropriate follow-up care. Brain injury is an invisible disability and someone recovering from an injury might have challenges with things like thinking, memory, sleep, vision or depression. It’s important they have access to the right support and resources to aid their recovery.”

Building on the work of and in partnership with agencies such as the Alaska Brain Injury Network and the Alaska Department of Seniors and Disabilities Services, UAA’s Center for Human Development coordinates the Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injury (TABI) Advisory Council. The council engages in advocacy at the state and federal levels and creates a vision for Alaska’s system of support for persons with TABI through development of the Alaska State Plan for Brain Injury focused on prevention, awareness, resources, data and infrastructure.

This month, members of the TABI council and the broader Alaska community are sharing their experiences, perspectives and knowledge to raise awareness of the impacts of brain injury in Alaska.

“Brain injury does not discriminate — if you have a brain, you are already vulnerable,” said Guylene Derry, TABI project coordinator/resource navigator at Daybreak and Alaska TABI Advisory Council member.

“As common as potholes in spring, so are the number of brain injuries in our state,” said Derry.

Many council members have become advocates because they have first-hand experience and understand how important  useful resources are for individuals and families of individuals who have sustained a brain injury. Rebecca Young, LPC, CBIS, is a UAA clinical-community psychology graduate student]. "Recovering from a traumatic brain injury can be a slow process,” said Young. “We do not hike a mountain with a broken leg. When recovering from a head injury we must manage our expectations on what we can achieve day to day.”

Learn more:

  • Follow the UAA Center for Human Development and the College of Health social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) for Alaska brain injury facts and personal stories.
  • Practice prevention by wearing a helmet, ice cleats and rubber soled shoes. Use handrails and take care on the road.
  • Get a brain injury screening if you’ve fallen, been in an accident or had a recent concussion.
  • Share your stories through the #MoreThanMyBrainInjury awareness campaign.


Check out the Alaska Brain Injury Network and Alaska Brain Bus websites for additional activities.

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